Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper
Patriotism and Fear
Patrick Henry and Jonathan Edwards are both spectacular speakers and have the ability to influence a crowd. Henry uses his ability of persuasion to sway the Virginia House of Burgesses. Edwards uses persuasion to give a sermon directed toward sinners and natural men. Henry and Edwards have many parallels and variations in their works. One can distinguish the similarities and differences between Patrick Henry and Jonathan Edwards in the purpose, repetition, and rhetoric of their writings.
Jonathan Edwards and Patrick Henry have similar, yet different purposes. Both Henry and Edwards are trying to convince or motivate a group of people to act upon what is righteous and just. Henry, indifferent to Edwards, is pleading with the Virginia House of Burgesses to fight against the ruthless and overpowering British for independence:
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace—but there is peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! (Henry 90)
Henry’s intention is to influence Congress to lead the way to war and he is trying to motivate the Congressmen to feel the same way as he does about fighting for freedom. The audience, after listening to Henry’s speech, is compelled to feel an obligation to fight for their country until independence is gained or until their blood has been spilled. Although Edwards is motivation speaker like Henry, his purpose is to inform sinners that “the Devil is waiting for them” and that “it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds [them] up” (Edwards 38-40). Edwards’ purpose is to assure people that everyone is condemned to an eternity in hell and only by confessing their sins and acknowledging Christ as the only savior with grant them salvation. The audience is terrified from Edwards’ statements and through their fear of damnation people are obliged to change their sinful ways. Although Henry and Edwards have slightly similar purposes in persuading a group of people, they deviate into their own separate purposes as well.
Both Patrick Henry and Jonathan Edwards fulfill their purposes by using repetition to further put across their ideals. Henry, in his unique way, uses repetition to justify the means for war:
We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. (Henry 90)
Henry’s rationale is that the colonists have done everything possible to prevent war, all of which have failed, and now it is time to fight. The audience feels easily swayed by Henry’s ideology, feeling a sense of honor and patriotism mounting inside them. Edwards, diverting from Henry’s views, uses repetition to warn sinners of “an angry God” and “God’s wrath” (Edwards 38). Edwards’ purpose in doing this is to create an impression of fear so that sinners will reform themselves to be pure. The reaction of the audience is one of fright and despair as the people fear for their souls and salvation. Although both Henry and Edwards use repetition to further communicate their point, Henry uses it to motivate people, whereas Edwards uses it to scare sinners.
In addition to repetition, Henry and Edwards both use rhetorical questions to further convey their philosophies. Henry uses rhetoric to put across his principles about the Revolutionary War:
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? (Henry 90)
Henry uses rhetoric to question the honor, integrity, and patriotism of people in the colonies. This convinces the audience to believe that they should be fighting for freedom and independence. Jonathan Edwards uses rhetorical questions to force sinners to think, “Who knows the power of God’s power?” (Edwards 38). Edwards’ use of rhetoric creates worry and panic in the minds of sinners and unholy people. The fear and horror created by Edwards’ sermon convinces the audience into doing anything for salvation from the fiery pits of hell. Although the rhetoric that Edwards and Henry use are different, they both satisfy the authors’ purposes.
Patrick Henry and Jonathan Edwards are both enthusiastic speakers and are excellent in persuading groups of people. Edwards and Henry both use rhetoric and repetition; however, Henry uses them to move people whereas Edwards uses them to create the aspect of fear in peoples’ minds. Henry and Edwards have similar yet different purposes in that both are trying to sway a group of people but each speaker has a different audience and technique of persuasion. Patrick Henry and Jonathan Edwards are similar in the notion that both are eloquent speakers however each speaker has his own unique approach to persuasion.